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The languages of two hemispheres collided when Spain conquered Mexico and, as a result, a dynamic expression of visual and dramatic arts emerged. Mural painting and missionary theater quickly became
the media to explain and comprehend the encounter of indigenous peoples with Christ and the crucifixion, as well as with heaven and hell.
“Based on a wide array of meticulously scrutinized sources, Schuessler’s conclusions will unmistakably stand the test of time. Unlike some books that rest conclusions on weak foundations, Schuessler carefully pieces together large amounts of evidence to discern the hidden transcripts in the sources consulted.” —Robinson A. Herrera, author of Natives, Europeans, and Africans in Sixteenth-Century Santiago de Guatemala
In Foundational Arts Michael K. Schuessler asserts
that the literature of New Spain begins with missionary theater and its intimate relationship to mural painting. In particular, he examines the relationships between texts and visual images that
emerged in the Valley of Mexico at two Augustinian monasteries in Hidalgo, Mexico, during the century following the Spanish Conquest. The forced combination of the ideographical tradition of Nahuatl
with Latin-based language alphabets led to a fascinating array of new cultural expressions.
Missionary theater was organized by ingenious friars with the intent to convert and catechize
indigenous populations. Often performed in Nahuatl or other local languages, the actors combined Latin-based language texts with visual contexts that corresponded to indigenous ways of knowing:
murals, architectural ornamentation, statuary, altars, and other modes of visual representation. By concentrating on the interrelationship between mural painting and missionary theater, Foundational
Arts explores the artistic and ideological origins of Mexican plastic arts and literature.